letters to the editor - 6/8/03

June 08, 2003

Walking my dog: The real story

By Kristin Aleshire

As stated last week in the Hagerstown City Council session, I was involved in a minor incident that if nothing else, instilled in me the fact that I am first and foremost a citizen of this city, and have only been elected by the people because the people felt I would appropriately represent their best interest

In my brief tenure I have attempted to approach this responsibility with common sense and fairness. For this reason I brought up the "dog" occurrence in the City Park on my own accord, due to the manner in which it was handled.

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 25, I was walking my two dogs along the roads around the outside of City Park.


However, in the rear of the park there is no sidewalk provided along the road, but rather a walkway running parallel to the road for safe pedestrian use.

While using this walkway, which appears to serve in the absence of a sidewalk, I was coming out into the gravel parking area to the rear of the park when several men got out of the back of a vehicle and began to yell across the lot for me to get the dogs out of the park.

I briefly explained the reason for using the walkway and that I was headed along the street, but one of them continued to yell as I walked away.

An hour later the same day, while walking my larger dog and actually being off the parking lot on the street behind the park, these individuals sitting in the gazebo got into the vehicle and attempted to back out toward the dog as I went past.

As I proceeded along the sidewalk toward Virginia Avenue, these individuals followed me and slowed the vehicle in the street to yell obscenities out the window. At this point I felt that it would be negligent on my part as an elected official to allow any citizen to be treated in this manner.

While leaving my residence on Highland Way, several hours later, I stopped where the individuals sat in the park's gazebo at the top of the steps, smoking cigarettes and playing radio music out of the back of their truck (with West Virginia tags).

Their truck was backed up to the gazebo, which all patrons entering the park from this entrance had to walk through it. I asked if they lived in or worked for the City to which they replied no.

Although frustrated and angry, I gave the three males one of my council cards, and stated that if they ever felt the need to verbally harass any citizen of this city, or had an issue with any dogs walking around the park, I would be glad for them to attend the council meeting and express their concern there.

If that was not agreeable. I told them, then they could return to West Virginia, and enjoy the parks there. The individual closest threw the card down and expressed some further obscenities as I drove away.

While returning along the walkway the next day I came through the parking lot only to be stopped by an officer, which they had apparently contacted, for this infraction. We debated the merits of the safety of walking in the street given its line of sight issues, as opposed to the walkway, and consistency of enforcement of the issue, due to the numerous other pets that were actually down in the park at the very moment.

I explained what had occurred previously, at which time he asked if I thought the issue was humorous. I explained that I found little humor in the situation and would bring the issue to light and resolve it so that this would not happen to anyone else. I continued on my walk along the street, while the individuals again remained in the gazebo.

I brought the issue out at council meeting (otherwise it would never have been made public) during my own time for comments, because I felt and continue to feel that I handled the issue in a rational manner.

This experience is not one that I would appreciate any child, resident, family, or visitor to the area to take away from a visit to our parks.

On that note, I enjoyed the quote on the front page of the paper Monday 6/2 regarding the Blues Fest in the Park "This is my idea of a Blues Festival: Kids, DOGS, families," I attended the Blues Fest on Sunday with several friends and no dogs and watched as more than a dozen dogs roamed about with their owners.

Unlike the "thumbs down" section would suggest, apparently the rules aren't for other folks, just elected officials choosing to speak up on the matter against people inappropriately using the Park, or ones that are exercising some common sense when it comes to walking "so as not to create hazard."

I can only imagine where the thumb would have been pointing if an officer of the city had removed a pedestrian from the walkway, and that person or pet would have been struck by a motorist. Whatever it takes to twist and sell a story, I guess.

The Herald-Mail Articles